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#032 : Kevin Wordon @ Adobe

In this Chill episode, Overdose’s Brisbane MD, Elliot Schoemaker, chats with Adobe’s illustrious Head of Customer Strategy, Kevin Wordon, discussing growth, challenges, successes, marketing channels, marketing automation, and key strategies for 2021.

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Kevin Wordon @ Adobe

#032 : In this Chill episode, Overdose’s Brisbane MD, Elliot Schoemaker, chats with Adobe’s illustrious Head of Customer Strategy, Kevin Wordon, discussing growth, challenges, successes, marketing channels, marketing automation, and key strategies for 2021.

About Adobe

We all know about Adobe’s genius when it comes to software in the creative space–its flagship suites Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign have reigned supreme in desktop-publishing for some 40 years—but recently it’s boosted into the digital marketing management software arena. In 2018, Adobe acquired ecommerce services provider Magento Commerce; later the same year it acquired Marketo, a marketing automation software company; and in late 2020, it acquired Workfront, a provider of marketing collaboration software.

These were major acquisitions which bolstered Adobe’s offerings to provide businesses with their digital foundations—customer journey management systems, market automation, commerce engines, content management systems, asset management, personalisation, and analytics, to name a few.

Now, armed with a wide gamut of ecommerce solutions, Adobe is a key player in the world of digital marketing.

The Interview

Kevin Wordon lives and works at his Queensland ‘acreage’—a mini-farm where there are chickens to feed and llamas to entertain. It wasn’t Covid that drove him to his bucolic hideaway; he chose this lifestyle for his young family and because of his love of animals.

Adobe has long supported its remote workforce—well before the pandemic began closing office doors—and you can easily get a sense of the benefits of work-life balance as we chat with Kevin (in between his trots down to the hen house); he’s a super-chill guy.

As Adobe’s Head of Customer Strategy for the APAC (Asia-Pacific) region, Kevin explains his role is about helping customers on their digital transformational journey. This involves things like addressing customers’ pain-points objectives and navigating their marketing automation landscape or commerce landscape.

Gearing towards customer success

Kevin explains to us how Adobe’s customer strategy is journey-based, beginning with prospective customers in the pre-sales stage and travelling right through to after-sales: “The journey doesn’t stop once you purchase technology, it’s ongoing, especially as you start to expand your tech stack and look at new use cases.”

A big focus is placed on ensuring customers are achieving optimal success with their new software, starting with smooth integration into the business’s other systems, and, once established, working towards full utilisation. Platforms like Marketo or Magento offer a broad set of functionality, however, many of the features are under-utilised, often forgotten once habits set in, and only a subset is used.

To find out levels of utilisation, Adobe monitors and scores customers’ usage of a platform. Kevin explains: “If, say, a business is only using 70% of what they purchased, we can look into why—it may be a people or a process issue getting in the way of adopting the technology, and may be a strategy or roadmap discussion we then need to have.”

“Typically,” Kevin says, “it’s the way the business operates which gets in the way of adoption.”

And so it’s all part of the service—Adobe helping its customers achieve the best success while using its products.

Benchmarking for success

Adobe uses the utilisation scoring system as a benchmarking tool for its customer strategy, “There’s no better way than looking at your peers within your industry,” says Kevin.

Pitching like-for-like businesses against one another can lead to the cross-pollination of strategies between businesses, and not only within a particular industry but also inter-industry. “The likes of manufacturing, for example, are catching up on the digital transformation, and they could learn from automotive, for example,” explains Kevin.

The rise and refinement of the digital experience has come a long way since Kevin began his ecommerce career. “In the early days, customer digital experience was industry-specific—the success stories honed in on an individual industry, but that doesn’t matter anymore. I think we can all learn from other customers and what they’re doing, and how they’re engaging.”

The blurring lines of B2B and B2C

Another transformation affecting the world of SaaS (software as a service), is the convergence of B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing channels. Where once the two customer types generally required separate engagements, it’s now not necessarily the case—often marketers seek to engage with B2B customers in a B2C manner.

“B2B doesn’t have to be boring,” Kevin points out. “Why does the digital experience have to be boring if it could look and feel like a fun and interactive website?”

In one of his previous roles at Flight Centre, Kevin was tasked with developing a B2B website for the business travel arm of the organisation. He was ticked off for making it look too much like the retail website. “I didn’t take that as a bad thing,” he says, “I thought, for me, that’s a job done.”

At the end of the day, they’re still just people on the other end making purchasing decisions.

“With B2C,” explains Kevin, “there’s the personal motivation, whereas in B2B, you’ve got to get the personal motivation plus the business motivation. If you can nail it on the business level, and the personal level of the individual, that’s where I really think you can win engagement in the B2B sense.”

Creating a customer journey

Whether it’s B2B or B2C, the digital experience is the journey of the customer. While it may be initially created en masse, it’s still the individual going on the journey. Their behaviour may change along the way, such as the way they browse on a website, so behaviour needs to be constantly monitored and managed.

Effective customer journey management involves listening to customer behaviours and figuring out what is the best next action—which course of action to send the customer down.

Kevin gives an example: “You may looking online at TAFE Queensland to choose from a variety of courses, and your certain life stage might be a mum or dad returning to work, or you might be looking for post-graduate, or still in school, or you could have just graduated school. So TAFE have to tailor the customer journey based on certain life stages.”

In customer strategy, the marketer must figure out how to adapt the engagement strategy­, and often there is a complex environment to consider.

Elliot shares his experience of when he was working for a software vendor in the charity space: “In not-for-profit, you have very different journeys and potential journeys for customers. Every time you do a new activation or a new event, you’ve got a different thing that you have to design for that customer—there are donors, there are fundraisers, and there people supporting fundraisers. All of these different personas need different forms of engagements and that can be quite a complex thing, especially when you consider many charities that are smaller and don’t have huge marketing teams.”

The challenge in building the most effective engagement strategy is mapping it out and considering all the different possibilities and personas.

Identifying the Persona

Identifying and developing strategies for the different personas becomes a central task for the marketer. When options seem endless, where do you start?

Kevin’s advice is to not get bogged down trying to cover all personas and every detail of everyone: “It’s best to look at, say, the top three personas we want to go after,  and start building programs around them. Just start somewhere. Don’t wait for every single persona in the business to be drafted, just go after the top two or three and build content for them.”

He suggests starting broadly then working your way down. “In a B2B situation, for example, start with, say, the decision-maker and build content for them, then, as you get into it, you may realise the decision-maker is more in the operational space of the organisation, so it may be better to target the sales team.”

It’s about learning as you go. Start somewhere, and learn and refine as you go.

The ever-evolving environment of digital technology

Learning is definitely a daily affair in the rapidly evolving ecommerce space.

Having both started their digital careers around the same time, Elliot and Kevin remember the early years when there were very few sophisticated platforms around, and businesses were sceptical when it came to early adoption of new technologies. Back then, one of their biggest challenges was having to push hard for certain technologiesthey had to build a strong case to get their respective businesses to deploy a particular technology.

One of the difficulties people have in presenting these business cases is being able to project what the potential value will be. Helping their retail customers through this challenge is where a software provider like Adobe, and a digital agency like Overdose, can really step up.

In fact, helping put forward a business case for new technology was how Kevin’s role at Marketo came about. “I was a customer of Adobe’s for around seven years, then I joined Marketo prior to the Adobe acquisition and there my role was as a strategic advisor to help businesses craft their business case.”

From his experience in that role, he found a big disconnect between the business objectives and leadership prioritiesand the challenge was to translate those top priorities into a solution that met the objectives as well: ‘I want to invest in market automation’… ‘Why? What’s it going to help you with?’… ‘Is it going to help you be more efficient?’… ‘Is it going to help you with the acquisition?’… ‘Ok, but have you thought about customer retention as well?’. These are some of the questions that get bandied around the office.

Kevin found that often there’s simply an education issue and leadership just needs to understand the value of the platform. “Be prepared to educate your leadership. Rather than just saying ‘Hey, we want to purchase Magento, we want to purchase Marketo’, let them understand what it does.”

Adobe’s acquisition of Marketo

Adobe’s purchase of Marketo was a major acquisition where effectively two large, well-established organisations merged. Were there any difficulties, particularly from a cultural perspective, with the integration?

Kevin had been at Marketo only four months when the acquisition took place. “It couldn’t have gone better,” he says. “Adobe does acquisitions really well, and it was a seamless transition into the organisation. We were all pretty surprisedwe were all thinking Marketo is a fairly big business and Adobe is a big, big business, so how will that actually work? And certainly, we felt like there were open arms.”

For Marketo’s clients as well, the acquisition was well-received. Adobe already had a strong presence in many organisations, particularly in document productivity, and the merging of creative tools into the Marketo platform has represented a new level of value and ease-of-use for marketers in their tech stacks.

What areas are Adobe investing in now?

Adobe is investing in artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning, particularly new technologies aimed to make the life of a marketer more efficient. For example, if you are planning a webinar event, behind-the-scenes intelligence can recommend people from the database to send an invite to, rather than you having to spend time navigating the database.

Adobe is also focusing on the seamless integration of Workfrontits latest acquisitiona platform aimed at streamlining the organisation and workflow of a marketer. Enhancements are planned as well, such as integrating creative and market automation functions into the program.

What’s new on the horizon in digital marketing?

Kevin points to the rise of first-party data. “We’ll begin to see a cookie-less future where it’s more than ever about the data you have and how you use it to engage with your customers,” he explains. “In the past, we’ve been getting inaccurate third-party data, hoping and praying that we’re reaching the right customers. There will be a shift into more second-party and first-party data.”

Adobe, and Overdose too, both agree when it comes to data capture. There’s a lot to navigate in terms of consumer privacy protection, and both firms acknowledge their role in helping guide their customers through changing data privacy laws such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

In a cookie-less world, gone will be the days when businesses can see when people are looking at their site on Safari or when they’ve clicked a link.

“Retailers,” says Overdose’s Elliot, “who currently rely on third-party SaaS platforms to deliver cohort data to them, to assist their understanding of how to market appropriately to their customers, will face a lot of technical challenges­­it’s going to be a large upheaval for them, especially for smaller businesses.”

“Yes,” Kevin agrees. “And that makes your first-party data even more important. And now, trying to create that single customer view becomes more important too. The change for the retailer might be: ‘How can I bring my physical touch-point data and my CRM data together, and then use those for the customer profile to do that next best action, rather than relying on the third-party?’ It’s designed for more privacy and protection of general consumers, so I think it’s a good thing, and we have to adapt.”

Elliot agrees it’s a good thing. “I think the message for businesses is to reach out and talk to their SaaS providers and ask, ‘What are we doing to resolving this?’ You need to start having conversations. Make sure you’re ahead of the game.”

Kevin suggests thinking of your technology partners as your business partners. “As a technology provider,” he says, “we’ve thought about this, and we’ve been thinking about this for a very long time. So whether it’s your partner like Overdose or Adobe, if you’re a customer, or if you’re notthat’s fine as well, just talk and reach out and we can help you navigate it.”

Collaborative solutions seem to play a big role in Adobe’s customer strategy and after chatting to Kevin, we get a sense that as big as they may be, the strategy is simpleat the end of the day it all comes down to people helping people.